Exposé print issues (1993-2011)
Peter Phippen — Into the Ancient
(Projekt 230, 2022, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2022-05-15
The sound of ancient wooden, clay, and bamboo flutes is timeless, and Phippen has harnessed those centuries-old sounds and brought them into his own world, not in their traditional contexts, but as tools for his own musical expression. Originally (we’re talking the 80s) Phippen was playing electric bass in an improv combo at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire; he happened on a tiny bamboo pennywhistle and learned how to play it on his own, eventually using it during a conga break in his group. The professor, seeing his interest, gave him an Indian bansuri flute, recommending that he learn it. That was the beginning of his interest, and before long, he was introduced to the shakuhachi (traditional Japanese flute), and his journey continued. Today, all these years later, bass guitar is a distant memory, while Phippen has produced some two dozen recordings improvising on various ancient traditional wood and bamboo flutes (most were released on the Canyon label). The modern concert flute is of little interest to him — it’s the sound of the wood and bamboo that has the appeal — but he plays them apart from their cultural heritage, using them to channel their ancient voices and placing their sounds in his own context. This brings us to the album at hand, Into the Ancient, his first on the Projekt label. All of the sounds on the album’s twelve tracks were made by Phippen on a variety of ancient wood and bamboo flutes, assisted by his co-producer Ivar Lunde Jr who provides light (sometimes faint) synthesizer backing on many of the tracks, and together they offer a widescreen cinematic production style shimmering with reverb effects. The opener, “Northern Lights,” is exemplary of most that follow, beginning with a low, faint droning sound accompanying the flute as it finds its way through ancient spiritual passages, the synth sounds always complimentary and never overpowering. “The Old Ways” is accompanied by the sound of a hand drum, though again never overpowering, just enough to make the listener aware of its presence while Phippen’s flutes wander in and out of the structures. “A Calling” is one that is as close to a purely solo endeavor as possible, though the sound echoes and reverberates as if it had been recorded in a huge canyon. “Tears of Infinity” has a sort of rinky-dink electronica backing that doesn’t do a lot for me as a listener, yet Phippen’s flute still manages to overwhelm those sounds and stand out. Mostly, though, this as an album of serene and beautiful ancient sounds that will calm the listener and guide one to a higher plane. Recommended to fans of Mark Seelig’s Disciple series.
Related artist(s): Peter Phippen
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